Penn State Caps Undefeated Season With National Title
Dec. 20, 2008
Omaha, Neb. – The Penn State Nittany Lions became the fourth team in NCAA Division I women’s volleyball history to finish a season undefeated, as the top-ranked Nittany Lions successfully defended their 2007 national title with a 3-0 sweep (25-20, 26-24, 25-23) of second-ranked Stanford in Saturday’s 2008 NCAA final at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb.
Penn State finished one of the most impressive seasons in NCAA history with a perfect 38-0 record, joining Long Beach State (36-0 in 1998), Nebraska (34-0 in 2000) and USC (35-0 in 2003) as the only undefeated champions in NCAA history. The Nittany Lions’ 38 wins are the second-most of any Division I champion since the tournament began in 1981 and the most of any of the four undefeated champions. After dropping its only two sets of the season in Thursday’s five-set semifinal win over Nebraska, Penn State finished its year with its 37th sweep in 38 matches.
The Nittany Lions also became only the sixth team to repeat as national champions and the first since USC captured back-to-back titles in 2002 and 2003. After Saturday’s victory, Penn State has now won three national titles in school history – all since 1999 – as the Nittany Lions joined five other programs which rank second in NCAA history with three national championships.
The only program with more NCAA national championships than Penn State is Stanford, which the Nittany Lions defeated for the national title for the second straight year. Despite another terrific season, the six-time national champion Cardinal became the first team in Division I history to finish as the national runner-up in three consecutive NCAA Championships. Stanford, which fell to Penn State in a five-set thriller in 2007, finished the 2008 season with a 31-4 record.
Stanford started the match strong, scoring five of the first six points in set one. The Cardinal rode the strong start to a 15-10 lead at the media timeout, at which point Stanford had 10 kills on only 19 attacks. After the break, it was all Penn State as the Nittany Lions closed the set on a 15-5 run. Penn State scored six of the first seven points after of the break to pull even at 16, then used a 4-0 run to take a three-point lead. The Nittany Lions earned a set point at 24-19 following three straight points and a Megan Hodge block one rally later gave Penn State the first set. After Stanford’s hot start, the Cardinal had just three kills on its final 23 swings, while committing four errors. Stanford hit just .167 in the set, while Penn State came alive late to pound out 14 kills on .257 hitting.
Penn State enjoyed a much better start to set two, as the Nittany Lions jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead. Stanford scored four of the next five points to close the gap to 7-5, and the Cardinal pulled even at 12 on a block by Cynthia Barboza and Foluke Akinradewo. A solo block by Cassidy Lichtman gave Stanford a 14-13 lead, but Penn State regained the lead two rallies later and continued to lead until Hodge closed out the set with a kill. Defense ruled the second set, as Stanford recorded five blocks to hold Penn State to a .102 attack percentage. The Cardinal could not take advantage however, as Stanford hit only .159 and had three serving errors.
Stanford, which rallied from an 0-2 deficit in Thursday’s semifinal win over Texas, was unable to repeat the feat as Penn State never trailed in a set three. The score was tied twice early, but once the Nittany Lions built a 9-5 lead, they led the rest of the way. Stanford came back and pulled within two on seven occasions and finally got as close as one when a 4-0 run made the score 23-22. Hodge answered the run with a kill to set up two consecutive match points. After a Stanford kill, Nicole Fawcett, the 2008 AVCA National Player of the Year, gave the Nittany Lions their second straight national title with a kill off the Cardinal block. Both teams hit below .200 again in set five, but Penn State finished with two more kills and one fewer error.
Hodge, the championship’s Most Outstanding Player, finished with a double-double, recording a match-high 16 kills on .318 hitting and adding 14 digs. Fawcett also had a double-double with 10 kills and 11 digs, as Penn State was victorious despite hitting a season-low .177. The Nittany Lions added 11.5 blocks and five aces, while out-digging the Cardinal, 64-54.
Stanford was led by Klineman, who finished with 15 kills. Barboza ended her career with a double-double, as she tallied 11 kills and 15 digs. The Cardinal hit just .142 in the match, but finished with 11 blocks.